A publishing mouse?

February 9, 1996

Cambridge University Press has refused to publish a study of Macedonia on the grounds that it could provoke Greek terrorist reprisals. Its actions dismayed the author, Anastasia Karakasidou, and infuriated editorial board members Stephen Gudeman and Michael Herzfeld. They resigned, accused the press of censorship and demanded an academic boycott of CUP. Here the parties involved explain their positions

1. What is the argument of your study?

The work is a study of nation building and the creation of national consciousness among the diverse inhabitants of a rural township in northern Greece between 1870 and 1990. It explores the process by which a common sense of Greek national consciousness was enculturated among what had been a very diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious population. Many studies of Macedonia have been written by scholars from a particular national perspective. My study challenges such looking-glass histories and their assumptions.

2. Why is your research so sensitive?

Today most people of Slavic descent living in Greek Macedonia regard themselves as Greek. There are others, however, who regard themselves as Macedonian and some who feel nationally homeless.

If my research on this issue has been sensitive it is perhaps because it attempts to challenge how categories of identity have been imposed or adopted. Ironically, this particular book is principally concerned with how a common sense of Greek national identity developed among a once diverse population and not about the continuing exposure of differences.

3. From whom did you receive death threats two years ago and why?

Threats were made against me in summer 1994 at the height of the Macedonian controversy. Rhetoric and actions in the newly independent Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were perceived in Greece (with considerable justification) as threatening. Greece responded by instituting a unilateral trade embargo against the FYROM. The threats were made by an individual(s) who had internalised a version of national history. Six wars have been fought in the region of Macedonia this century. Future conflict will only be avoided when people can speak openly about their differences and understand how these differences have been created over time. The real issue is not who made the threats but why they did so.

4. Do you think the press was right to consult Britain's Foreign Office?

I do not believe it is a question of right or wrong but rather one of who caters to whose interests. There is an irony here, however, in that the work is concerned with the suppression of local knowledge for the sake of state politics and national ideologies.

In pursuing publication with a reputable academic press I had hoped the study would have been free from influence from national politics. It is also surprising that the decision was based on the advice of individuals who had no familiarity with the manuscript. It is even more worrying that this could set a precedent for diplomats and intelligence services elsewhere to offer advice to prospective publishers of scholarly work.

5. What are the implications of CUP's decision for Britain's relations with Greece?

I am not in a position to comment or speculate. However, as an anthropologist and as a Greek, I was rather astonished at the degree to which certain British authorities seem to have "orientalised" Greeks by implying a propensity towards violent expression. Such stereotypes lump the entire population of a nation state into a single category and are themselves part and parcel of national ideology.

Anastasia Karakasidou is assistant professor of anthropology, City University of New York.


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